· Vatican City ·

Refugees and volunteers share their experiences with Pope Francis

 Refugees and volunteers share their experiences with Pope Francis  ING-012
24 March 2023

On Saturday, 18 March, a group of refugees and their families who arrived in Europe through “Humanitarian Corridors”, as well as representatives of receiving institutions and communities, gathered in the Paul vi Hall for an audience with Pope Francis.

The Humanitarian Corridors initiative is spearheaded by the Community of Sant’Egidio, together with the Federation of Evangelical Churches, the Waldensian Table and the Catholic Church in Italy. It is an ecumenical project, as Daniele Garrone, the President of the Federation of Evangelical Churches, said to the Holy Father. “The same Word of God reaches all of us”, he noted, and “gives us hope and calls us to serve others, with a shared vocation”.

The corridors to Europe are present in Lebanon, Ethiopia, Libya, Pakistan, Iran, Niger, Greece and Cyprus, explained Daniela Pompei, speaking on behalf of the Community of Sant’Egidio. “Opening a path was the beginning”, she said, “but the challenge every day is living together”. With people from a variety of places, including Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Congo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Palestine, Guinea, Togo and Ukraine, Pompei stressed the importance of working together to welcome them, and the “surprising gift” that comes from welcoming. “You welcome a family who fled from the war and, with those seeking refuge, you discover a community of people who help one another and who, with you, fight and hope”, she said.

It was a sentiment echoed by Mattia from The Marches, whose family, in 2018, welcomed a Syrian family of four — one of the first to arrive in Italy through the Humanitarian Corridors project — into their home. This one gesture of kindness quickly grew into a community of like-minded volunteers who wanted to help refugees with the many challenges of relocating to a foreign country. “From that first corridor, two others were born”, Mattia told the Holy Father. “The humanitarian corridors are a safe path to save human lives, and they are a great gift for this our Europe, often aged and resigned”, he said, adding, “Our wish is to see this model spread throughout the continent”.

The Holy Father also listened to the testimonies of two refugees: Anna from Syria, and Meskerem from Eritrea, printed on this page.